Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another victory for Environmental Justice

Or alternately titled "Two Sides of the Same Coin: Economic Justice and Opportunity and Protection from Bad and Access to Good"

The appointment of Van Jones as special adviser to the president on green jobs and the environment is yet another victory in a long list of victories for the Environmental Justice movement. Who would have thought even just a few years ago that an activist of color would have the ear of America's first black President on issues of the environment, the economy and climate chage? It's truly an exciting time.

A recent New York Times article chronicled how communities of color have come to care more and more about the environment and have been at the forefront of change in the environmental movement for quite some time.

In that same article Jones, always on his message, opened up some space to continue to expand the frame around the environment and the economy (you know, those buzzy green jobs), and ultimately our health and truly sustainable communities (you know, protection from those pesky, nasty chemicals to which we're all exposed, and participatory community planning with a racial, economic and environmental justice lens).

NY Times: Van Jones...[of] Green for All...said that while environmental justice groups were focused on “equal protection from bad stuff,” groups like his wanted “equal access to good stuff” and to use green jobs to lift urban youths and others out of poverty.

“The more the green movement transforms into a movement for economic opportunity,” Mr. Jones said, “the more it will look like America.
Yet, ultimately, "equal protection from bad stuff" and "equal access to good stuff" are but two sides of the same coin - as many in the EJ movement who define the environment as where we live, WORK, and play have known for quite some time.

The same goes for economic opportunity and economic justice – in fact, the more this 'green' stimulus is focused on communities hit hardest in the current economic climate (and those industrial toxins), the more it will look like the America that elected Obama last November.

Stimulating equality, justice and transparency will stimulate this economy.

These expanded frames can only help to build the audience for our collective vision for a transformational green movement. And we need to flip the coin and keep the pressure on Jones (and Obama) to represent not only economic opportunity, but economic and environmental justice. Our lives depend on it.